9 min read
Jun 15, 2021
Human Resources

What Is a Workplace Well-Being Program? Find Out With This Comprehensive Guide

When we hear “employee well-being program” we think fitness classes & nutrition coaching, but today’s wellness initiatives need to take a more holistic approach to include support for employees’ physical, mental, social, financial, and professional health.

Sierra RogersContent Writer

As an HR professional, part of your job is to improve the employee experience. A positive employee experience helps retain top talent, promote employee engagement, and make for an overall happier workplace. One of the most impactful initiatives you may not have considered is a workplace well-being program.

What is a workplace well-being program?

At their core, workplace well-being programs (also known as employee well-being programs or wellness programs) promote healthy lifestyles for your employees.

Launching (or updating) a workplace well-being program is a great way to improve the employee experience at your organization. But in order for your program to be successful, you’ll need to understand what these initiatives typically include and how you can optimize yours to meet the unique needs of your employees.

The most effective well-being programs are holistic, which means they offer resources to support employees in five different areas: mental health, physical health, career development, financial support, and community well-being.

Percentage of corporations that offer each pillar of well-being

Research from Gartner shows that a majority of corporations with employee wellness programs include offerings that address each of these pillars. And while the makeup of your organization’s program may look different than what’s on the graph, these pillars (along with your employees’ feedback) provide a solid foundation to build your well-being program from.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through each of the pillars that make up a holistic workplace well-being program and provide recommendations that will help you prepare to launch your own.

The 5 pillars of an effective workplace well-being program

1. Mental and emotional health

For the first time, mental health has replaced physical health as the most commonly offered employee well-being program. In fact, a survey from Gartner found that 96% of organizations currently offer a program in this pillar (full content available to clients).

When you look at the numbers, it’s no wonder why mental well-being has become a top priority for businesses. Nearly one in five adults in the United States lives with a diagnosable mental illness, and depression and anxiety disorders alone cost the global economy $1 trillion a year in lost productivity.

Of course, the best mental well-being benefit you can offer is health insurance that covers treatment for mental illnesses. Even still, providing additional resources helps break through the stigma that surrounded conversations about mental health in the past, and it also conveys that the mental well-being of your employees is a priority for you as an employer.

With that, here are some examples of mental health benefits you can offer as part of a holistic well-being program:

  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)

  • Counseling services

  • Mental health education or classes

  • Mental health self-care tools

  • Support groups

In fact, wellness support in the form of virtual offerings is becoming more and more accessible. For instance, wellness software, such as LifeWorks, makes it easier for employees to seek help in a convenient manner.

Mental health counseling and resources for employees offered through LifeWorks

Mental health counseling and resources for employees offered through LifeWorks (Source)

2. Physical health

According to Gartner’s survey, physical well-being programs are now the second-most commonly offered category of well-being programs, with 94% of organizations offering them (full source available to clients). 

When employees aren’t well, they’re more likely to show up to work and be disengaged (presenteeism) or have an unscheduled absence (absenteeism). Both of these circumstances are bad for business, but offering programs that improve physical well-being can help minimize how frequently they happen.

  • On-site gym or exercise classes

  • Nutrition/healthy diet promotion

  • On-site vaccinations

  • Ergonomic support

  • Exercise competitions

  • Tobacco cessation programs

  • Fitness-related reimbursements or subsidiaries 

  • Health education

Here are some examples of initiatives related to physical health you can invest in as a part of a holistic well-being program:

It’s worth mentioning that these perks do not replace providing quality health insurance to your employees—they are just extra benefits that make living a balanced lifestyle more accessible to your employees.

Fitness classes offered virtually from Wellable, a corporate wellness platform

Fitness classes offered virtually from Wellable, a corporate wellness platform (Source)

3. Career development

After physical and mental well-being programs, Gartner’s survey found that career development is the most commonly offered pillar by corporations (full source available to clients). This makes sense; at the end of the day, employee wellness programs are about improving engagement, and offering development opportunities is a very effective way to do that.

In a survey conducted by GetApp this January, we asked small-business employees what will be the most important factors they consider when evaluating a new job after the pandemic. Thirty percent of respondents chose learning and development (L&D) opportunities. 

It doesn’t end there: Employees are also 12 times more likely to leave a company that doesn’t offer them learning, development, and career-growth opportunities. So, investing in career development as part of your overall employee well-being program will help you reduce turnover and improve employee engagement.

Here are 5 steps you should take to put a career development program into action:

5 steps for building a career development program

Learn more about our survey methodology at the end of this article.

4. Financial support

Gartner’s survey revealed that financial well-being is the fourth most commonly offered pillar of wellness programs at corporations, and with nearly one in every two U.S. employees worried about money, there’s definitely a need for it. 

A financial well-being program can also help attract millennial and Gen Z employees who have faced more financial challenges, like student debt and an increased cost of living, than prior generations.

financial wellness benefits

Here are some examples of financial well-being benefits you can offer as a part of a holistic well-being program:

  • Tuition reimbursement

  • Childcare reimbursement

  • Financial counseling/coaching

  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs)

  • Employee relief funds

5. Community involvement

Lastly, Gartner’s survey found that community well-being is the fifth most commonly offered pillar of corporate wellness programs. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s an unimportant aspect of a holistic well-being program. A majority of employees feel that it’s important to them to work in a culture that embraces community involvement. 

America’s Charities Snapshot Employee Research revealed that 71% of employees feel that it’s either imperative or very important to work where culture is supportive of giving and volunteering.

As an employer, the benefits of community involvement and corporate philanthropy are numerous. For starters, these efforts can boost your reputation and employee morale, and attract quality talent to your organization.

95% of companies that measure the relationship between participation in volunteer programs and employee engagement found a positive correlation

Here are some examples of community involvement programs you can offer as a part of your well-being program:

  • Employee volunteer days

  • In-kind and financial donations

  • Donation matching programs

  • Non-profit partnerships

Before you go: Check out these tips for implementing a successful employee well-being program

Investing in your employees’ well-being is a worthy cause; 48% of employees who utilize well-being programs report being highly engaged, compared to 30% of employees who do not (full content available to clients).

Hopefully this guide gave you a better understanding of what a workplace well-being program is, but before you start investing in on-site exercises classes or financial coaching, you need a plan for implementing and maintaining a wellness program.

We’ve put together eight tips that will help you start out on the right path:

8 tips for launching a successful employee well-being program

Throughout this guide, we mentioned a few tools that can help you plan, launch, and promote your well-being program.

Here’s a recap of the specific kinds of tools we mentioned and how you can use them:

Survey methodology

The GetApp HR in the New Era Survey 2021 was conducted in January 2021. We surveyed workers at U.S. small businesses with two to 500 employees. The responses are a representative sample (by age and gender) of the U.S. population. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.

Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.

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